Shrinking Areas: Front-runners in Innovative Citizen Participation

EUKN, 2012


With few exceptions, cities and towns across Europe face the effects of ageing and depopulation. In the future, the entire continent is expected to feel the impact of shrinkage on its towns, cities and regions. In shrinking areas, the existing physical and social structure is under pressure. Houses are difficult to sell, schools need to close, services and amenities become too expensive to maintain. To overcome the consequences of shrinkage joint action is needed. Local authorities need to cooperate with citizens to find ways to maintain the quality of life in their city or town.

This publication presents an overview of the effects of shrinkage on European towns, cities and regions. It provides a scientific analysis of the phenomenon and the ways different layers of government could deal with it efficiently by using the potential of residents in the shrinking areas. It gives inspiring examples of active citizens who have taken matters into their own hands and developed joint solutions for several shrinkage-related problems.

The key finding of this publication is the fact that cities should readjust themselves to the governance of shrinkage, which might involve de-industrialisation, de-investment and the loss of functions. Whereas shrinkage is often still denied today, the future demands a more realistic view of its development.

In sum, shrinkage has serious effects on cities, but it also provides opportunities: more space, less crowded streets, shorter waiting lists for schools or health care and so on. If shrinking areas want to use shrinkage to their advantage, they should focus on the latter. Thinking of shrinking cities as breathing cities, full of new possibilities, might push the discussion of shrinkage into a more positive direction.